Democratic candidates for the 19th District State Senate took off their gloves Wednesday night in a Boone County debate.
Tim Harlan, former 23rd District House representative until 2002, began the jabs against State Rep. Chuck Graham when responding to a question about plans to minimize the undue influence of corporations on the political process.
“I will tell you that I will not be at the top of the list of people receiving gifts. Chuck was named by The Kansas City Star as the No. 1 recipient of lobbyist gifts in the legislature,” Harlan said. “I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
Graham, the current 24th District House representative, defended himself by saying, “You’re not going to find me afraid to vote against people who have contributed to me.”
He later attacked Harlan on the percentage of meetings Harlan attended while a representative during his last year, saying it was only 54 percent.
“I will show up,” Graham vowed.
More than 85 people packed into the Boone County Commission Chambers to hear the debate, which was hosted by Muleskinners, a Democrat group; Democracy for Missouri; and the Boone County Democratic Central Committee. Voters in the Aug. 3 primary will decide which candidate will face Republican candidate Mike Ditmore in November.
Graham began the night with his opening remarks, which focused mainly on education. He outlined his work on keeping the MU School of Medicine in Columbia and on preventing Southwest Missouri State University from being renamed to Missouri State University.
Graham said Missouri needed to do a better job funding education and said that as chairman for the House Appropriations Committee for Education, the education formula was fully funded.
Harlan also outlined his accomplishments, including passing HMO regulations, adding sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes and handling the “Mental Health Care Parity Act,” which requires insurance companies to provide coverage for the treatment of mental health.
He said his strong point is being able to work across the table with Republicans to get legislation passed, saying it is an issue of leadership.
In a question-and-answer session, both Harlan and Graham agreed that they would support changes to the tax codes.
“I would reopen the entire tax code,” said Harlan, saying things have changed tremendously since it was first written.
Both Graham and Harlan said they would like to close corporate tax loopholes.
Harlan said he would address the education budget by closing tax loopholes to bring more revenue into the system. “You will not find anybody who is going to support public education more than I,” he said.
Graham also supports closing tax loopholes and has proposed removing the $500 loss limit on gaming while increasing the gaming tax to create revenue.
Support of environmental issues was brought up as well.
Graham said he would fight against the repeal of regulations, while Harlan said his legal training would help as bills are proposed.
Another issue discussed that continues to resurface is both candidates’ views on the Paige Arena at MU. Graham supported a bill to allocate $35 million for the basketball arena. He said that the project will create jobs and economic growth.
Harlan contends that the decision was a poor use of funds and the wrong placement of priorities.
When asked about the privatization of education, Harlan said he opposed the use of vouchers to fund parochial schools, and Graham said he opposed tax credits.
Other debaters Wednesday included Connie Hendren and Ralph Pugsley, the campaign manager for Larry Fowler, who was unable to attend because of a family emergency. Hendren and Fowler are vying for the public administrator position.
Candidates for Boone County sheriff also debated.